During sleep, the neck muscles relax. This is totally normal given that the body is temporarily paralyzed during sleep to help keep us from acting out our dreams. However, when our neck muscles become too relaxed, the upper airway closes partially and this is what causes a person to snore. This is dangerous since the airway is too narrow to allow air to travel properly to the lungs and thus, the body does not get enough oxygen for it to retain its essential functions.
It is at this point when the brain sends a signal to the body to wake up so that it’s then able to get the oxygen that it needs. Oftentimes, the person wakes up during the night without even being fully aware that they did wake up.
So, Why Should We Worry?
Parents should be extra vigilant of their children when they snore loudly because this is often associated with sleep apnea. It has also been associated with other serious illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, and obesity. About 30% of males have sleep apnea as well as about 20% of women who snore.
Not only that, but sleep apnea will also undoubtedly take restful sleep away from your child, which is extremely essential for the growing body. In the long run, this could mean that your child’s growth becomes delayed.
Further studies from the American College of Chest Physicians found that with poor sleep, children are more likely to have ADHD and learning problems.
What Are The Signs of Sleep Apnea That We Should Watch For?
Observe your child during sleep. If your child:
- Snores loudly and regularly
- Exhibits pauses, snorts, or gasps for air
- Stops breathing temporarily
- Sleeps in awkward positions
- Is restless during sleep
- Sweats heavily during sleep
You may also observes these symptoms in your child during the day. Children who suffer from sleep apnea often have behavior, social, and academic problems. They are also quite difficult to wake up and they speak with an unusually nasal voice and they breathe through the mouth regularly.
What Are Some Treatments For Sleep Apnea?
If you suspect that your child has sleep apnea, the first course of action that you should take is to visit a doctor, preferably an experienced pediatrician like one of the professionals at Families First Utah pediatrics. Make sure to bring sleep records, as well as a record of how fatigued your child seems during the day.
The most common treatment of choice for sleep apnea comes in the form of a continuous positive airway pressure device. The CPAP is a mask that fits over a patient’s mouth and it blows air into the airway to facilitate air passage during sleep.
It is of paramount importance that the use of a CPAP device should be according to a doctor’s recommendation. It should be followed without fail.
Other methods, however, involve manipulating any part of the body that blocks the air passage. Sometimes, this requires the use of dental devices in order to reorient the tongue and lower jaw to allow air passage, or to even remove tissue in the airway, thus widening the passage.
Image Credits: Child Snores from Serhiy Kobyakov/Shutterstock